Abuse of rights (Article 19, Civil Code)

Every person must, in the exercise of his rights and in the performance of his duties, act with justice, give everyone his due, and observe honesty and good faith. (Article 19, Civil Code of the Philippines)

According to Paras, a chapter on human relations was formulated to present some basic principles that are to be observed for the rightful relationship between human beings and the stability of the social order. The lawmaker makes it imperative that everyone duly respect the rights of others. (Report of the Code Commission, p. 39). Indeed, this chapter on human relations is calculated "to indicate certain norms that spring from the fountain of good conscience. These guides for human conduct should run as golden threads through society, to the end that law may approach its supreme ideal, which is the sway and dominance of justice."

In the sphere of our law on human relations, the victim of a wrongful act or omission, whether done willfully or negligently, is not left without any remedy or recourse to obtain relief for the damage or injury he sustained. Incorporated into our civil law are not only principles of equity but also universal moral precepts which are designed to indicate certain norms that spring from the fountain of good conscience and which are meant to serve as guides for human conduct. First of these fundamental precepts is the principle commonly known as "abuse of rights" under Article 19 of the Civil Code. It provides that " Every person must, in the exercise of his rights and in the performance of his duties, act with justice, give everyone his due and observe honesty and good faith." (Carpio v. Valmonte, 481 Phil. 352, 2004)

The elements of abuse of rights are as follows: (1) there is a legal right or duty; (2) which is exercised in bad faith; (3) for the sole intent of prejudicing or injuring another. (Dart Philippines, Inc. v. Calogcog, G.R. No. 149241, August 24, 2009) The existence of malice or bad faith is the fundamental element in abuse of right. (G.R. No. 185559, August 2, 2017)

For example, in an action to recover damages based on malicious prosecution, it must be established that the prosecution was impelled by legal malice. There is necessity of proof that the suit was patently malicious as to warrant the award of damages under Articles 19 to 21 of the Civil Code or that the suit was grounded on malice or bad faith. There is malice when the prosecution was prompted by a sinister design to vex and humiliate a person, and that it was initiated deliberately by the defendant knowing that his charges were false and groundless. The award of damages arising from malicious prosecution is justified if and only if it is proved that there was a misuse or abuse of judicial processes. Concededly, the mere act of submitting a case to the authorities for prosecution does not make one liable for malicious prosecution. See Bayani v. Panay Electric Co., Inc. 386 Phil. 980, 986 (2000), citing Equitable Banking Corp. v. Intermediate Appellate Court, 218 Phil. 135, 140 (1984); Drilon v. CA, 336 Phil. 949, 956-957 (1997); and Martires v. Cokieng, 492 Phil. 81, 94 (2005), citing Villanueva v. United Coconut Planters Bank (UCPB), 384 Phil. 130, 143 (2000).

Article 19 sets certain standards which must be observed not only in the exercise of one's rights, but also in the performance of one's duties. These standards are the following: to act with justice; to give everyone his due; and to observe honesty and good faith. The law, therefore, recognizes a primordial limitation on all rights; that in their exercise, the norms of human conduct set forth in Article 19 must be observed. A right, though by itself legal because recognized or granted by law as such, may nevertheless become the source of some illegality. When a right is exercised in a manner which does not conform with the norms enshrined in Article 19 and results in damage to another, a legal wrong is thereby committed for which the wrongdoer must be held responsible. But while Article 19 lays down a rule of conduct for the government of human relations and for the maintenance of social order, it does not provide a remedy for its violation. Generally, an action for damages under either Article 20 or Article 21 would be proper. (G.R. No. 161921, July 17, 2013)

Article 20 provides that "every person who, contrary to law, willfully or negligently causes damage to another shall indemnify the latter for the same." It speaks of the general sanctions of all other provisions of law which do not especially provide for its own sanction. When a right is exercised in a manner which does not conform to the standards set forth in the said provision and results in damage to another, a legal wrong is thereby committed for which the wrongdoer must be responsible. Thus, if the provision does not provide a remedy for its violation, an action for damages under either Article 20 or Article 21 of the Civil Code would be proper. (G.R. No. 161921, July 17, 2013)

In RCPI v. Court of Appeals (G.R. No. L-44748, August 29, 1986), a telegraph company was held by the Supreme Court liable for acts of its employees in connection with a libelous or defamatory telegram. A message-sending company is duty-bound to take precautionary or necessary steps in order to prevent such humiliating incident. (Paras, 2008) In other words, the company was not able to perform its duties with justice; the aggrieved party was not given what was due him.

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